The Quakes and Wells Fargo are humbled and inspired by the amazing work of our frontline communities and neighbors in this time of crisis. Each week, we’ll be featuring and highlighting the work of one fantastic neighborhood hero, showcasing the great work they are doing and the organizations our community can rally around.
Additionally, a donation will be made to an organization or community project on behalf of each week’s hero. This week we will be donating to Opening Doors 2020.
“What makes us unique, is there's no other agency that does what we do,” says David Hernandez, Executive Director and Founder of Opening Doors 2020.
Opening Doors 2020 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started doing outreach and providing services and resources to homeless and low-income communities in Santa Clara County. When they realized there was a tremendous need for food in the community, they began partnering with local organizations to get food into the hands of those in need.
When David and his team were told they could no longer operate out of the community centers due to COVID health and safety regulations, they had to adapt quickly. “We couldn’t do that same service indoors any longer,” says David. “We completely turned our indoor operation into a mobile operation.”
David and his team of four were able to secure a food truck to serve hot meals from, outdoors and restaurant-style. Since mid-March, OD2020 has been serving food every day— over 150 people a day, and over 1,000 a week.
They have formed three different temporary feeding sites around downtown San Jose: Martha’s Kitchen, 2nd and St. James, and Markham Plaza. “Since March 28, we’ve parked in a parking lot on 2nd and St. James three times a week,” says David.
After adapting to mobile service, OD2020 was able to form a contract with local low-income housing developers to use their parking lot near 2nd and St. James as a distribution area.
Additionally, other local businesses and organizations have gotten behind their cause. A majority of the hot food is sourced through Martha’s Kitchen, where they have also been participating in their meal program twice a week.
The meals are provided in hot-and-ready fashion. Those in need can line up at the service window of the food truck to get a freshly prepared, hot and nutritious meal just like they would at a regular food truck... but free of charge. The OD202 team sets up buckets throughout the lot to mimic a socially-distant outdoor dining experience. This type of setting also invites the community to engage with one another, and for OD2020 to build relationships with the people they serve.
“Every day of the week we are feeding some population that is vulnerable in the downtown area,” says David. In addition to food, OD2020 has been able to distribute clothing and toiletries.
Prior to the pandemic, David says somewhere around 90 community groups would travel through the original distribution site, the community center, to drop off food or serve. But COVID has restricted many church groups, community groups, school groups, nonprofits and others from volunteering as usual.
“When COVID hit, 100% of the volunteers disappeared. So we had to put together a different type of strategy to recruit volunteers,” says David.
The daily operation is now executed by David’s team of four with the assistance of around 50 regular volunteers. It takes an average of over two hours for setup and cleanup, but David and his team do this before the volunteers arrive.
Volunteer tasks include meal ingredient prep, plating and distribution to the community. David says this is so the volunteers can more directly see and experience how they are making a difference. OD2020 only asks their volunteers to sign up for one hour shifts. David says the flexibility of one hour allows for people to even help while on their lunch break. “And when they finish, they wanna do more!” he says.
A big part of their goal is to build relationships with the community that transcend one hot meal. OD2020 has been able to use meals as a catalyst to open conversations about what other needs the community members have.
“We know their names and know everyone that walks in,” says David.
Their goal is to make a long-term impact. They accomplish this by redirecting, educating, and connecting low-income families, seniors, veterans, and the homeless to safety net services available in Santa Clara County.
For more information on how to volunteer or donate, visit their website here.